Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 12:14 pm | Overcast 62º


Local News

Thousands Celebrate Earth Day as Santa Barbara Hosts Annual Homegrown Festival

Environmental activism takes center stage but leaves plenty of room for music, food, chill vibes, fun activities and alternative-energy vehicles


Earth Day returned to its birthplace Saturday with music, food, plenty of sun and a healthy dose of environmentalism.

Santa Barbara’s Earth Day Festival, put on by the Community Environmental Council in Alameda Park, was expected to bring out 30,000 visitors over the two-day gathering.

With many concerned about the direction that President Donald Trump’s administration is taking on science, the climate and the environment, this year’s theme was activism.

“Here, they have multiple opportunities to see what various organizations are doing, to see what various companies are doing, and to get involved and engaged,” said Fran Farina of Sierra Club California, whose Los Padres chapter had one of the many booths set up across the park.

“That’s what we really need. We need people who are going to volunteer their time to help these organizations, like Sierra Club, to support with money, if they can, and make their voices heard.”

Farina said Santa Barbara’s streak of environmental activism hasn’t wavered since the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill spurred then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., to found what became the international celebration of Earth Day the next year. Santa Barbara’s celebration was among the first.

“I think what we’re seeing now is that more people are aware that things they’ve taken for granted like clean air, clean water are in danger,” she said.

Activism was on full display Saturday with Santa Barbara’s March for Science, which wound its way to Alameda Park, where participants hung up signs that argued, often very creatively, for society’s and the government’s embrace of science.

“I think we’ve got this momentum, and I think we need to build on it and keep going,” said Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, who staffed a booth for elected officials Saturday.

“I’m seeing a lot more engagement with our younger people,” she told Noozhawk. “I think that’s good. They’re paying attention.”

Filling in the two-block park were scores of booths representing environmental and social organizations, local businesses and others offering environmentally sustainable products and services.

Attendees danced to music from local artists performing on the main stage, visited a beer garden, enjoyed lunch from food trucks and booths, and tested out their athleticism with a rock wall and slack line.

A car show exhibited the latest electric, hydrogen and hybrid cars — one of the Community Environmental Council’s efforts to promote active and emissions-free transportation.

The car show’s goal, according to CEC transportation and climate specialist Cameron Gray, was to bring home to visitors the wide array of environmentally friendly vehicles on the market.

Transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse-gas emissions in California, where more than a quarter-million electric vehicles are now on the road, he said.

Highlighting Saturday’s festivities was the presentation of CEC’s Environmental Hero Award, which was bestowed on activist, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken by actor Jeff Bridges.

Past winners have included former Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who retired earlier this year; Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk; director James Cameron; and science educator Bill Nye.

Hawken has authored a number of best-selling books on issues ranging from capitalism to climate change, founded environmentally conscious businesses and now leads an international collaboration of researches looking to address climate change.

He said that all the issues that have galvanized people around the country to march over the past few months — from women’s equality to science to education — have to be approached from a positive perspective.

“Those who are ‘against’ have caused the issues that we deal with,” Hawken told festival goers. “But by being against ‘against’ is not going to be a solution. It’s about being ‘for.’”

The Earth Day Festival continues from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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